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Serena Williams’ Vanity Fair cover is a stunning instant-classic

This story is wonderful.

It’s around this time every year that ESPN magazine releases “The body issue” for us mere mortals to appreciate the human form of the world’s greatest athletes. Serena Williams has her own version, appearing on Vanity Fair in pregnant perfection.

The accompanying story, “Serena Williams’s Love Match” features more photos of Williams from iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz — and they're all incredible. The piece itself focuses on the love story of Williams and her fiancee, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. It takes us on a journey through their relationship,

The story of how Williams met Ohanian is great.

Williams and Ohanian met at a hotel in Rome. Ohanian mustered up the courage to sit near Williams at a restaurant outside, which struck her as odd — given the number of empty tables. So she and her friends devised a plan to make him leave.

Then came the quintessential Australian accent of Zane Haupt. “Aye, mate! There’s a rat. There’s a rat by your table. You don’t want to sit there.”

Serena started laughing.

“We were trying to get him to move and get out of there,” said Serena. “He kind of refuses and he looks at us. And he’s like, ‘Is there really a rat here?’ ” At which point Serena remembers the first words she ever said to him.

“No, we just don’t want you sitting there. We’re going to use that table.”

“I’m from Brooklyn. I see rats all the time.”

“Oh, you’re not afraid of rats?”

“No.”

Comically, Ohanian wasn’t even 100 percent sure the woman asking him about rats was Williams -- but he did enough to pique her interest and was invited to sit with Williams’ party.

Fast forward to 2017.

Williams wins her 23rd major while pregnant.

The Australian Open presented a new challenge that Serena had never faced before in her career. Because of the pregnancy she did not have the same endurance. She could uncharacteristically feel herself getting tired between points, particularly long ones. If a match went to three sets she knew she would lose, so she was determined to make every match two sets. She also had to deal with the Melbourne heat, which can be vicious on the court in the late afternoon: despite hating playing in the morning, Serena, because she had the option of choosing the match time in the early rounds, played as many as possible at 11 A.M.

Not only did Williams need to win, but she needed to dominate as quickly as possible — and she did.

There’s a lot more to the piece, including more details on Williams’ pregnancy and plans to return to tennis. Head over to Vanity Fair to read it, because it’s honestly beautiful.